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Bible Engagement Preaching

There are approximately 37 million churches in the world and 34,000 (Christian) denominations. If every church has only 1 service a week (most churches have more than 1 service), about 2 billion sermons are preached every year!

That’s a lot of sermonizing, and it means the Bible is the most talked-about book in the world!

Which gets me to wondering, how are preachers preaching, and what are they preaching?

The researcher, Ed Stetzer, addressed this question, in part, in a June 2009 article in Christianity Today. Analyzing 450 randomly selected sermons by different North American preachers, he found that pastors organized and delivered their sermons in diverse ways. He also discovered that Matthew was the most preached book, Genesis the most preached Old Testament book, and Luke, John, Acts, and Romans the most likely books for preachers to use for their main text. More than 70 percent of sermons are a commentary on New Testament texts.

Stetzer’s research indicates that preaching, while Bible-based, isn’t based on the whole Bible. This is troubling, particularly in the light of Paul’s words to Timothy that “all Scripture … is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16.

Note the phrase “all Scripture … is useful for teaching.” The text suggests that certainly all 39 books of the Old Testament, and by extension, the 66 books in both Testaments, are profitable for training and instruction. Why are all the books useful for teaching? Because when preachers preach from the whole Bible it provides us with the full range of meaningful encounters that we need to know and grow in Christ (cf. Luke 24:13-35).

Preaching from the entire Bible isn’t optional, it’s essential. To grow in spiritual maturity, people must feed on the whole counsel of God. So here’s a shout-out for preaching that connects us with every chapter and genre of Scripture in both Testaments.

That’s not to say that it’s feasible for a preacher to preach from every passage of Scripture, but it is to say that good preaching should engage the listeners, with breadth and depth, in the major acts of the whole Bible.

In summary, the aim of every preacher should be to connect the listener with Jesus and His Word. Not some of the Word, all of the Word. For we grow in maturity in our relationships with Jesus through engaging with His Word in its entirety.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Correctly Handling the Word of Truth

One of the last things Paul told Timothy was, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15.

Note the phrase “correctly handles the word of truth.” The Greek word for “handles” is orthotomeō. It only appears once in the New Testament. Strong’s Concordance defines orthotomeō like this: to cut straight, to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly. Visually, we should picture it as a clear and unobstructed pathway, i.e. no impeding obstacles.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no obstacles to correctly handling the word of truth? Unfortunately, many obstacles need to be overcome. Maybe the biggest is the misguided notion that everyone’s opinion should be valued. But truth isn’t subjective, it’s objectively knowable. We do not have the liberty to make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean.

So how do we handle the word of truth fittingly and appropriately? Here are five foundational guidelines:

  1. We should begin with understanding the master plan. When we study Scripture, we must determine where it fits into God’s plan. Every verse of Scripture must be understood in the context of its passage, every passage in the context of the chapter, every chapter in the context of the book, every book in the context of the Testament, and the Testament in the context of the whole Bible.
  2. We must be governed by the overarching principle of Scriptura sui interpres (Scripture interprets itself). Remember that God’s Word is living and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Throughout the Bible we see Scripture quoting Scripture. Scripture itself is the best theology professor to teach truth. When we carefully contemplate and consider different accounts of Scripture, the Scriptures will enable us to understand and correctly handle the word of truth.
  3. We must do it in community. When we handle truth, we must consider and interact with the writings/teachings of theologians past and present (insofar as they agree with Scripture). There is no new truth. God has revealed truth to Christians down through the ages. As a guiding principle, if we think we have a new interpretation, we’re probably wrong.
  4. We must look for Jesus. The theme of the Bible from beginning to end, though sometimes hidden or obscure, is Jesus (cf. John 5:39). Jesus is Truth (cf. John 14:6). To rightly comprehend and apprehend the truth, we must engage with Scripture the Emmaus Road way (cf. Luke 24:13-35), i.e. open the Scriptures to see Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27).
  5. We must ask God to illuminate the Scriptures. To correctly handle the word of truth we need insight and understanding from the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26). It’s only when the Holy Spirit shines His light on a text, that we’re able to properly analyze, accurately explain, and rightly apply the Scriptures.

 

There’s much more that could be said. Please add your comments.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Cultivating Bible Engagement

Many pastors urge their congregations to read/hear the Bible personally. Bible reading plans or daily devotional books are freely available in many local churches. Every now and again churches have special events (e.g. Bible Sunday) to encourage individuals to get into the Word. Yet despite what’s being done to boost regular engagement with the Bible, most Christians only read/hear the Bible in a Sunday service.

So what can we do to ramp up Bible engagement?

To begin, we should recognize that 80% of people throughout the world are oral preference learners. That means, regardless of education or background, most people learn and absorb information, not through literate means, but through oral methods of storytelling, drama or song. The implications are critical: If most people aren’t wired to engage with the Bible through literate means, then urging them to mainly read or study the Bible will be counter-productive. However, when we use oral preference approaches to Bible engagement, like group discussions or acting out a Bible story, Bible engagement is strengthened.

Another consideration is self-discipline. It’s one of the 20% of skills that contributes 80% of results. In fact, self-discipline is a vital personal attribute needed for Bible engagement. It’s vital because self-discipline directs a person internally rather than externally. When Bible engagement is externally motivated, it’s more likely to fizzle out, but when it’s an internal motivation, it’s more likely to be sustained. Unfortunately, self-discipline is something of a Cinderella value today. People are generally inclined to go with the flow rather than developing habits that rule their lives. So we need to figure out how we can actively help each other cultivate Bible engagement habits.

We should also give communal Bible engagement our attention. The Scriptures emphasize Bible engagement as “we with the Word” more so than “me with the Word.” When people get together to focus on the Bible in small groups, be it a family at the kitchen table during supper or friends meeting together once a week in someone’s home, the relational dynamics enhance engagement with the Word.

Communal Bible engagement may be the best thing we can do to help people jump into the Word because it creates an ideal environment for oral preference learners and provides opportunities to develop Bible engagement habits.

Everything mentioned above is only well and good if it’s put into practice. People need opportunities to hear, talk about, act out and sing the Word together. That’s easier said than done. It takes effort to prepare and incorporate a Bible drama in a church service, to invite people into our homes for a Bible study, to ask an open-ended question to prompt discussion about the Word, or to corral the children to share a Bible story with them. But when we make the effort, people get to meet with Jesus in and through His Word.

What are you doing to cultivate Bible engagement? If you have some practical suggestions, please comment. Your input could make all the difference!

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Preach the Word

In many local churches today the preaching mainly emphasizes what’s positive, encouraging and inspiring. Heart-warming messages are the order of the day. Helping people deal with their felt needs is part of the regular Sunday diet. And enticing seekers to come and hear next week’s message is a big objective.

When uplifting messages are the mainstay of preaching; conviction, rebuke or correction are eliminated or downplayed. When rebuke or correction are absent from sermons, preachers have strayed from God’s command to challenge, warn or tell people they’re not living in obedience to God’s Word

Consider this instruction: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus … I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NIV).

Note the phrase “I give you this charge.” The Greek word for “charge” is diamarturomai. It was used when an official called on someone entering public office to work responsibly and seriously. Paul’s use of the word reminds us that God is watching what we do and listening to what we say. It also indicates that when we’re told to “preach the word,” it’s command language. It’s not optional. Every preacher, in favourable and unfavourable conditions, whether it’s convenient or inconvenient, whether it’s received or rejected, must show people in what ways their lives are wrong (cf. the Amplified Bible).

There are numerous preachers who are ignorant concerning God’s “charge.” Their ignorance is evident through how they limit their preaching to selected texts and specific themes. It’s a wretched state of affairs. Many preachers “have forsaken the right way and gone astray … they speak great swelling words of emptiness” 2 Peter 2:15,18 (NKJV).

Hollow words are commonplace. Critically review the content of the average sermon today and it’s evident that serious teaching is sadly lacking. Most preaching is light and fluffy – designed for consumers wired for the quick and easy. Where are the preachers with a backbone? Where are the modern-day Isaiah’s intensely proclaiming woe and judgement? Where are today’s Jonah’s preaching against wickedness? (cf. Jonah 1:2). Who, like Paul, are commanding people to repent (cf. Acts 17:30). While evil increasingly abounds, the courage to confront and expose depravity is unusual.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” Isaiah 5:20 (NIV). Are the prophet’s words true for today? I think they are. Some congregations never hear a message about Hell. Yet Jesus spoke about Hell more than He spoke about Heaven!

Preachers, are you proclaiming sin and judgement? Are you teaching people to fear God and live holy lives? If not, by omission you’re a false teacher enticing people to follow a fictitious Jesus.

Not speaking about negative things is an unspoken rule in some local churches and denominations. Yet all of God’s Word must be preached – even the parts of the Bible that are offensive to society at large.

Tragically, as the voices of the LGBTQ+ community grow louder, the voices of some preachers grow quieter. Why is the pulpit silent on matters of purity? The Bible isn’t ambiguous concerning homosexuality. Romans 1:18-32 clearly condemns perversion and warns of God’s wrath as a penalty for everyone who exchanges natural relations for unnatural ones.

The sexual confusion, abuse and defilement we see around us today may be due in part to preachers not preaching the Word. Are preachers scared? Do they feel intimidated by popular culture? Why are most preachers virtually inaudible on sexual purity despite the fact that pornography and lust are epidemics?

Preachers, preach the Word. It should be anathema to feed people spiritual junk food and catchy ideas that tickle their ears (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). But that’s what’s happening.

Renewal and restoration is desperately needed. Up until the mid 20th Century most Evangelical preachers confidently confronted and exposed sin. Holiness went hand in hand with being a Christian. And luke-warm Christians were uncomfortable because messages were firm and convicting.

Nowadays people are rarely pierced by the preacher’s message. At the conclusion of a service, they smile and say, “Thank you for the message Pastor” or “I enjoyed the sermon” or “I’m looking forward to what you’re going to say next week.”

I know when I’ve preached the Word. It’s when someone says, “I felt convicted” or “You made me feel uncomfortable,” or “Your message was negative!”

A woman recently approached me after a service and said, “May I make a comment?” Of course,” I replied. “I notice your message didn’t use inclusive language,” she said. “What do you mean?” I asked. With some intensity, she continued, “Well you spoke about men and women in a way that made no provision for other sexual identities and relationships. Everyone is part of God’s family and their sexuality should be embraced and accepted.” After a brief pause, I said, “Thank you for sharing your opinion. I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me. But the Bible clearly teaches us that there are only two genders – male and female.” The discussion continued for another five minutes, and then her parting shot, “You’re wrong. You should be more sensitive and understanding …”

That’s what happens when we preach the Word. People can and will take offence. In fact to those who are perishing “we are the smell of death” 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV). I didn’t know that being “the smell of death” was part of the job description when I started preaching. But it will be if we’re faithfully preaching the whole canon of Scripture!

Another thing I didn’t know when I started preaching is that two of the three commands in 2 Timothy 4:2 concerning preaching, are negative. Timothy was exhorted to elegcho (convict, prove wrong and thus shame a person) and to epitimao (charge, rebuke). In other words, preachers must major on corrective preaching, and as they do they should temper it with parakaleo (encourage and comfort).

Sugar-coated preaching is dangerous. As someone once said, “It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.”

So live up to God’s charge to boldly correct, rebuke and encourage people to abstain from sinful desires and live righteously. Because when we don’t preach the Word (all of the Word) the outcome is want and spiritual poverty (cf. Proverbs 11:24).

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Re-reading the Bible

Once, while doing some street outreach, I asked a lady if she read the Bible. “Yes,” she said, “Many years ago, I read it from cover to cover.” “Do you still read it?” I asked. With a face registering surprise she said, “Why would I do that? I’ve read it once and that’s enough!”

The lady asked a great question. Why, having read the Bible, should anyone read it again? Surely once is enough? Or is it?

I’ve read through the Bible dozens of times. Each time I read it, I’m changed. So when I re-read it, I’m not the same person as when I last read it. That is, each time I re-read the Bible I’m reading it from a new perspective.

Have you read through the Bible? If you have, you need to continue re-reading it.

Remarkably, because the Bible “is alive and active” (cf. Hebrews 4:12), every time it’s read, the reading is never quite the same as the previous reading. That’s because the Bible is like an onion. When we re-read it, we peel back a layer. Then, as we peel back a layer, new insights are discovered, new depths are plumbed, and new vistas revealed.

“It is the glory of God that hides the word, and the glory of the King that seeks for the word” Proverbs 25:2 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

Reading the Bible once is not enough. Nor is it enough to read it seven times or seventy-seven times. I know from first-hand experience. It’s only when we re-read the Word again and again that it opens up to us. In fact, the Bible reveals its secrets only to those committed to a lifetime of re-reading.

There are other reasons for re-reading the Bible …

  • Faith needs to be constantly strengthened by the Word (cf. Romans 10:17)
  • Understanding needs to be continually cultivated through reflection on the Word (cf. Psalm 119:130)
  • Spiritual maturity mainly comes through a life-time of interacting with the Word (cf. Hebrews 5:13-14)
  • Fruitfulness flows out of ongoing engagement with the Word (cf. Psalm 1:2-3)
  • Growth in reverence and obedience requires reading and reflection on the Word throughout one’s life (cf. Deuteronomy 17:19)

While these are all good reasons for re-reading the Bible, the main reason for re-reading the Bible should be to connect and stay connected, with Jesus. For re-reading the Bible is an out-and-out necessity for the ongoing health and growth of our relationships with Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Hand-Copying Scripture

“Apply yourself totally to the text; apply the text totally to yourself” – Motto in the 1734 edition of the Greek New Testament.

One of God’s special requirements for the kings of Israel was that they would hand-copy Scripture.

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20.

Why did God want the kings to make copies of His Word? So it would be repeatedly read, continuously learned, and carefully obeyed.

It wasn’t only kings who hand-copied the Word. For the bigger chunk of human history, hand-copying Scripture was the way the Bible was passed on from generation to generation by literate people. Today the Scriptures are available in printed or electronic forms. So hand-copying Scripture isn’t usually done to pass the Bible on in a written form. But it is done to help us draw closer to Jesus.

The method for hand-copying Scripture is straightforward:

  • Begin with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Word
  • Select a text, preferably a whole book that’s copied over several days or weeks
  • Write slowly and carefully. Check and double-check each word or phrase before writing it down
  • Savour every word as you write it. Aim not to get the writing done, but to connect with Jesus
  • Remember that you’re copying the living Word
  • Read what you’ve written, and listen to hear from God
  • Pray back to God, word for word, thought by thought, or thematically, the Scriptures that you’ve written down

When a king hand-copied Scripture he benefitted through growth in humility and reverence, hearing the Holy Spirit speak to him through the Word, enjoying good health (cf. Proverbs 4:20-22) and long life, renewing of his mind, and drawing closer to God.

The same benefits are available to us when we hand-copy Scripture.

Other advantages to hand-copying Scripture include:

  • Fosters a deeper appreciation for God’s Word
  • Quietens the mind and soul
  • Enables one to slow down and reflect on the Word
  • Facilitates a deeper contemplation of the Word
  • Connects us to the desires of the heart
  • Aids in memorization of the Word
  • Creates opportunities for inspiration
  • Invites responsibility and accountability
  • Provides occasions for creative penmanship and calligraphy
  • Helps us not become proud or arrogant
  • Personalizes the Word
  • Brings details and nuances to light that are often missed when the Scriptures are only read
  • Reminds us that while the Word has a physical beginning and end, spiritually it has no boundaries

It’s interesting to note that the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in the brain is engaged by handwriting. The benefit of engaging the RAS is that this part of the brain helps us pay attention and retain information.

When we interact and invest ourselves in the Word through hand-copying Scripture, it has life-changing and lasting significance. In a world that seems to be more and more frenetic; hand-copying Scripture helps us be still and know that God is God (cf. Psalm 46:10), deepens our faith, and enables us to leave a legacy for generations to come.

If hand-copying Scripture was good for kings, it’s good for us. That’s because we’re kings too (Revelation 1:6)! So as we reign with Jesus (cf. Romans 5:17), let’s copy the Scriptures and thereby make sure we’re repeatedly reading, continuously learning, and carefully obeying the Word.

[Check out The Saint John’s Bible – a handwritten illuminated Bible]

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Consumerism and Bible Engagement

Consumerism is a huge stumbling block to Bible engagement. It’s a stumbling block because the perspectives, values and attitudes that inform the essence of consumerism (selfishness, self-centredness and entitlement) are the antithesis of the perspectives, values and attitudes that connect us with Jesus and His Story.

Consumerism is the dominant worldview of the Western world. It can be defined as having the right to explicit, implicit, technological, personal, interpersonal and situational expectations being met. For consumerists, the protection or promotion of their interests is paramount.

When people live to consume rather than consume to survive, they become what they consume. When people become what they consume, they’re constantly seeking something newer, better or more.

And herein lies the problem. Bible engagement is a hit or miss affair in a consumer culture because it only gets traction when it’s seen to be newer, better or more, i.e. what people want.

So how do we deal with consumerism among God’s people? Here are two suggestions:

Teach God’s people to be counter-cultural

God’s Word exists for us to meet Jesus in and through it. Meeting with Jesus should never be a hurried affair. Bible engagement occurs best when there’s a long obedience and humble deference to the Word over many years.

Because Bible engagement isn’t instant, it’s counter-intuitive to consumer-oriented people. Consumers want everything now. Yet the composition of the Bible is designed to slow the reader/listener down. That’s why we must tell people that connecting with God’s Word isn’t like a fast-food restaurant. Bible engagement doesn’t jive with a give me an “instant fix” attitude. The Bible has to be engaged on God’s terms, not ours.

Taking the Bible on God’s terms doesn’t come naturally to a consumerist. That’s because the hold that consumerism has on people isn’t outward but inward. The consumerist’s perspectives, values and attitudes are rooted in pampering the flesh, pleasing the eyes, and feeding the desire for position and power. So along with teaching a biblical worldview and urging people to come out of the world (cf. John 15:19, 1 John 2:15-16), we must pray for a Spirit-directed, gospel-shaped, radical reorienting and renewing of the consumerists heart and mind (cf. Romans 12:2).

Stay true to God’s Word

In the belief that it has to provide an on-demand type experience, the church is increasingly responding to consumer culture by adapting and accommodating its message and methods. Author and journalist G. Jeffrey MacDonald says, “I’m concerned with the fact that churches are growing in many cases by serving up something that people seem to want, but something that’s not holding fast to the calling of the Gospel.”

Note MacDonald’s concern about churches “not holding fast to the calling of the Gospel.” Consumerism is corrupting the soul of the church. Tragically, the church is becoming more inclined to worship self-indulgence rather than Jesus! Little wonder that author C. S. Lewis commenting on Christmas and consumerism asked, “Can it really be my duty to buy masses of junk every winter?”

So where to from here? Quite simply, we must stop giving people what they want, and inspire them to “hold on to what is good” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

The best things in life aren’t things! We must challenge the values of consumerism and biblically rectify situations where it’s gained a foothold in the church. A good way to do this is to preach and teach all of God’s Word (rather than the selected pieces we think people want to hear).

And finally, if people are going to “hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), we must encourage and equip each other with the practical tools to personally and communally read, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word.

Much more could be said. What are your thoughts on consumerism and Bible engagement?

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Professionalism and Bible Engagement

Why are there so many people sitting in church services Sunday after Sunday who never, or rarely, read (hear, listen, connect), reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word?

In a previous article, Unleashing the Bible in the Church, three obstacles to Bible engagement were identified – pastors that don’t get it, people who don’t want it, and principalities that oppose it. Since writing that article I’ve been thinking about another significant obstacle to Bible engagement …

I used to be a pastor in a local church. Despite my best efforts I simply couldn’t get everyone into God’s Word. With the advantage of hindsight I now realize I was part of the problem. What made me part of the problem was that I did most of the preaching and teaching. When the pastor is the main person interpreting and commenting on the Word, it communicates the idea that the Word should be handled by professionals.

When someone knows better, or is more competent with something, we tend to let them get on with it. It’s not surprising then that so many people hand off the responsibility for reading/listening and interpreting the Bible to the people who have seminary degrees or denominational ordination.

Here’s the problem. When one person talks about the Bible nearly every week, instead of everyone talking about it, it subtly conditions people not to read the Bible for themselves.

To address this stumbling block we’ve got to change the paradigm. A more organic form of church meetings is required. The preaching and teaching of the Word shouldn’t be mainly tied to a pulpit. Every Christian should be invited and encouraged to participate in the services of the church. Every Christian should function as a priest (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). And for this to happen adequately we need to be liberated from a largely clergy dominated and professionally oriented system that in part, has taken the Word captive.

Francis Chan, an ex megachurch pastor who re-evaluated his theology and practice of church gatherings, and started We Are Church, says, “For us, we want to devote ourselves to thinking deeply not about the pastor’s words but the inspired Word of God – that is how we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. We don’t want to draw people to how we explain Scripture. Rather, we double down on the belief that if you have the Spirit of God in you, you are able to read Scripture yourself, and as a body we can wrestle with Scripture together.”

“Wrestle with Scripture together.” That’s brilliant! Imagine what might happen to the spiritual temperature in your local church if everyone got to grapple with the Word.

Everyone grapple with the Word?

For those committed to the program-driven routine of “churchianity” the thought of everyone grappling with the Word is sacrilegious. They’re right. The idea that every Christian can “wrestle with Scripture together” isn’t religious, BUT it is biblical! (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26, 29-32, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24-25).

Nowhere in the New Testament is there a precedent for a church meeting to be exclusively controlled by a pastor. Nor is there any biblical support for the modern day pulpit and pulpiteers who dominate many churches today. Instead, congregational participation should be the norm. In fact the major thrust in the Scriptures centers on every person in the church being actively involved in reading and reflecting on God’s Word (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26).

Mennonite theologian and ethicist John Howard Yoder says, “There are few more reliable constants running through all human society than the special place every human community makes for the professional religionist … But if we were to ask whether any of the N. T. literature makes the assumption listed … then the answer from the biblical material is a resounding negation …”

Forgive me for stepping on sacred corns. But if right practice is going to emerge from error, we must be honest enough to confront the truth. If the Bible is the sole rule for our faith and practice, surely we must ask whether or not the Scriptures have been manipulated to support clerical professionalism in its present form (mainly one person interpreting the Bible and preaching to a passive audience). And if the Scriptures have been manipulated, then as author Frank Viola suggests, “The brittle wineskin of church practice and the tattered garment of ecclesiastical forms needs to be changed, not just modified.”

Do you agree or disagree? From the preponderance of biblical evidence it seems to me that if Bible engagement is going to take off, one of the things we need to do is desacralize the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church by inviting and including a broader segment of God’s people (those gifted in preaching, teaching, sharing words of wisdom/knowledge, or prophecy) to share a word from the Word when we meet together.

Your thoughts?

Recommended Reading:

Mark Frees – Is the One-Pastor System Scriptural, Truth According to Scripture.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Dramatizing Scripture

“I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand” – Ancient Proverb.

When God created us He adorned our lives with humour, pathos, fragility and strength. These unique traits provide brilliant opportunities for artistry and Scripture to come together. Little wonder that the prophets of old reinforced their message through dramatic form, that the incarnation is the greatest drama ever, or that communion is a vivid memorial of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples.

The concept of artistry and Scripture coming together came sharply into focus for me when I came to faith in Christ during a time of revival on the university campuses in South Africa. Within months of discovering Jesus I was involved in a street drama group that performed fast moving biblical sketches in the corridors and lecture halls of the Johannesburg College of Education. It was an exciting period in my life filled with the joy of seeing hundreds of fellow students embracing Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

From first-hand experience I’m keenly aware of the power of drama to connect people with Jesus and His Story. Drama, rightly harnessed, can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring us close to the Word and bring the Word close to us. And more. Drama is a gift from God to help us explore the Word, enjoy it, be moved and provoked by it.

It’s time to act. Many people are kinesthetic learners, i.e. they learn by doing. For people who learn by doing, dramatizing Scripture is one of the best ways for them to engage with the Bible.

Dramatizing Scripture involves connecting with God’s Word through some kind of performance like an impromptu skit, sketch, rehearsed play, dramatic reading, playback theatre, street drama, dance drama, mime, monologues, or reader’s theatre.

The key elements in dramatizing Scripture include careful and prayerful reading of the Scripture text, writing a script, rehearsing and performing, and inviting a response.

Through dramatizing Scripture we get to see ourselves in the Word, find ways to connect our lives to the Word, and learn to come alive to the Word. Phil Collins, Director of Scripture Engagement at Taylor University says, “We tend to put ourselves into good stories that are acted well, ‘trying on’ for ourselves what characters are thinking and feeling, often seeing ourselves and the world in a new way.”

That to say there are many benefits to dramatizing Scripture:

  • ideal for visual or kinesthetic learners
  • is a medium for creative and artistic people to engage with the Word
  • reminds us that the Word is about real people with real emotions
  • helps us see ourselves in the Story
  • enables actors to physicalize the Scriptures
  • provides a means for us to grasp and pursue the Word
  • touches us in different ways from words by themselves
  • directs attention more sharply on the things about Jesus which demand our worship

While there are many benefits to dramatizing Scripture, there are potential pitfalls that need to be avoided. Dramatizing Scripture should never be seen as a way to make God’s Word attractive, exciting or interesting. And it should never be about entertainment for entertainments sake. Thinking we can somehow make God’s Word more appealing should be an anathema.

So here’s to dramatizing Scripture, and doing it not for the sake of performance, but to meaningfully connect us with the Word so that we connect with the One who is the Word.

Recommended Resources:

Pederson, Steve. Drama Ministry: Practical Help for Making Drama a Vital Part of Your Church, Zondervan, 1999.

Siewert, Alison. Drama Team Handbook, InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Watters, Sandra. Scripture Alive in Your Classroom With Drama, WestBow Press, 2015.

The Sourceview Bible – www.sourceviewbible.com

 

 © Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Increasing Bible Engagement

In the Hebrew Scriptures the broad meaning for “wax” or “waxed” is “increase”. Although the Hebrew word for “wax” is translated into English as “increase” it specifically means either an “increase in increase”, or seemingly paradoxically, but nevertheless logically, an “increase in decrease”. Like where “David grew (waxed) stronger and stronger” while “Saul grew (waxed) weaker and weaker.” 2 Samuel 3:1.

Sometimes we’re doing well with our Bible engagement, and sometimes not so well (Romans 7:15). How are you doing? I’m more up than down at the moment. The more I read the Word, the more it’s reading me. But it might not be like that in a few months time. That’s because there’s an ongoing war inside me. While the Spirit inclines me to wax stronger, my flesh inclines me to wax weaker.

Which begs a question: How can we grow stronger and stronger in reading, reflecting and responding to the Word? Here are three ways to increase Bible Engagement:

Use a Bible reading guide.

I find Bible reading plans tend to be the death of me. When I hit Leviticus I’m starting to yawn and when I get to Numbers my days are numbered! Bible reading plans also feel mechanical. I want to read the Word to meet with Jesus – never to check a box simply for the sake of reading through the Bible in a year. While I don’t like reading plans, I do find reading guides helpful. Reading guides, like the Scripture Union Guides, steer the reader through the whole Bible in 4-5 years. It’s a slower reading focused on reflection and it helps me contemplate the Word in manageable portions. Most importantly, a reading guide includes suggestions on how I should apply the Word – and that’s essential.

Spice it up.

William Cowper in his poem The Task says, “Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” When Bible reading seems to lose its flavour it may be helpful to spice it up. There are many ways to spice it up. Sometimes I’ll read from a different version, listen to an audio adaptation, or watch a Bible video. Children can spice it up with a free Bible game like Guardians of Ancora. Writing the Word, singing the Word, memorizing the Word, dramatizing the Word, journaling the Word, drawing the Word, or praying the Word also helps me spice it up. There are loads of online options that help us spice it up too. There’s the YouVersion app, Bible Gateway, Study Bible apps, or journaling apps for sharing readings with others like the Replicate app.

Do it together.

“Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Bible engagement is easier when we do it together. Sometimes reading the Bible with a friend or family member is the only motivation that gets us into God’s Word when we’re tired, frazzled or plagued by the tyranny of the urgent. That’s because when someone else encourages us to read and reflect on God’s Word it tends to lighten the load, strengthen the discipline of Bible reading, and spur us on. Bible apps make this easy. They let you see what your friends have highlighted, enable you to read their margin comments, facilitate sharing of passages with social graphics, or make it possible to read Bible guides together. But for me, there’s nothing to beat face to face Bible engagement. Most nights I read the Bible together with my family at the dinner table. Our discussions flowing from the Bible reading are usually stimulating and grounding. And because we do Bible engagement together, it’s the glue that binds us to one another and to Jesus.

That’s it in a nutshell. Bible engagement usually increases when we use a Bible reading guide, spice it up, or do it together. So here’s to waxing stronger and stronger!

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5